Douglas Barrie/LONDON

A PROTOTYPE fore-plane-equipped aircraft, based on a Sukhoi Su-30 airframe, is under construction at the Irkutsk production plant in southern Russia.

The canard-configured Su-30 airframe may carry the designation of either the Su-301, or the Su-30I (Istribitel/fighter).

Details of the programme are scarce, although construction of a prototype airframe is understood to have been under way since 1995.

The two-seat aircraft may in part be intended as an advanced conversion trainer aircraft for the Su-27M (Su-35), although it could also have a multi-role combat capability, with the back-seat occupant taking the role of weapons officer.

Development of the prototype is being hindered by lack of funding. It is not known whether the programme is backed by either the air force or Russia's air-defence forces (the PVO).

The PVO has meanwhile started to take delivery of the Su-30 fighter-controller derivative of the Su-27 Flanker. At least three Su-30s, are believed to have been delivered, to the PVO's Savotsleyka air base. Savotsleyka is one of the air-defence force's main advanced-training bases, similar in some ways to an operational conversion unit.

The Su-30, is understood to be fitted, with the N001 air-intercept radar. It differs from the export Su-30MK, in having no ground-attack role.

The Su-30 would most probably be used by the PVO in a similar fashion to the way in which the Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound is deployed, with one "controller" aircraft used to hand off targets to other aircraft via a datalink. The Irkutsk plant is thought to have assembled up to 30 Su-30Ms.

Source: Flight International